Government must strengthen measures to support employment and economic activity

Cork Chamber calls on Government to continue strengthening measures to support employment and economic activity during and beyond the pandemic shock.
 
Speaking today Conor Healy, CEO, Cork Chamber highlighted, “The swift response of the Irish government to the initial economic shock from the Covid-19 pandemic must continue to be strengthened. The priority throughout this period is our public health services and the functioning and support of our health personnel and must remain so. Though we must also look ahead now and mitigate the worst effects of the pandemic across society and the economy as we move through this crisis and beyond. It is imperative that the robustness of our economic measures are strengthened and evolved to support businesses, employment, jobs, families and communities.  If we fail to take the appropriate action now, we will face the full impact of an economic crisis as we come through our public health crisis.”
 
Mr. Healy added, “In the Cork Chamber COVID-19 Business Impacts survey to the Cork business community last week, we clearly see the shock to revenue and cashflow across all sectors is stark with over 70% of respondents reporting the immediate impact, and over 50% reporting staff reductions, layoffs and reduced working hours. For the medium to longer term impacts we forecast continued reduction to revenue and cashflow, with over 70% of respondents highlighting the expected impacts in earning potential, and a move from 50% to 60% of respondents predicting staff reductions, layoffs and reduced working hours.
 
In terms of supports, there is strong approval for the swift action from Government in their immediate response, with 78% of respondents adding support to maintain these measures, with feedback from business highlighting the need for the robustness to match the situation as it evolves. There is also strong support at 75% for the deferral of VAT and payroll tax, followed by strong support for the moratorium on commercial rates. The call from the Cork business community is clear, with the impacts moving far beyond the retail, hospitality, leisure and childcare sectors, the worst hit sectors initially.”
 
In anticipation of renewed Government steps, Mr. Healy stated, “Employment must be protected and Government movement on this is welcome. A Government wage subsidy scheme, comparable to the UK and Denmark is essential to create a proactive dynamic in the economy. It is essential to support the employer to keep staff employed or we would face an uphill struggle on the other side of this pandemic. We must not overlook the self-employed, we must take every action available on their behalf. We need to protect the employees and their families with effective rent subsidies, and deferred loan and mortgage repayments.
 

Speaking of the need for both immediate steps and a medium-term approach Mr Healy said “In the short term measures to help impacted businesses to keep people in employment and those that have closed to be able to reopen are critical. People and businesses want to work. Cash flow measures, VAT, PRSI, commercial rates, rent, mortgages and loan repayments all need to effectively be underwritten by government for a minimum of six months. We need greater assistance for those out of work through enhanced supports and expanded timeframes to maintain income levels and economic spending power.”
 
“In the medium term we must stimulate the economy via capital investment.
 
We must keep the National Development Plan projects moving forward to ensure the construction sector remains ready for the challenges of housing and infrastructural delivery when the economy recovers. We cannot afford to let this sector falter in equivalent to the last downturn or we will compound societal and economic issues all the more.”

 
Notes
 
Headline Cork Chamber Statistics

  • In both the short and the medium to long term reduced revenue and cashflow are being and are expected to be experienced by over 70% of businesses.
  • In the short term staffing reductions, layoffs/ reduced working hours are the current experience of 50% of businesses.
  • Staffing reductions, layoffs/ reduced working hours is expected to rise to 61% in the medium to long term.
  • In terms of supports, there is approval of the current Government measures at 78% although it is clear that Government must be responsive and adapt sharply in a number of key areas.
  • Deferral of VAT & payroll tax was strongly supported at 75%.
  • A full moratorium on rates was supported by 55%.
 
Headline Chambers Ireland Figures from Parallel Survey
  • 94% of businesses see their revenue declining over the coming three months
  • 73% of businesses expect their revenue to decline by in excess of 25%
  • Cashflow, Revenue, and Staffing are the critical issues for businesses
  • Cashflow and Revenue are of greatest concern to Sole Traders, and Micro-businesses (<10 employees) [This sector accounts for in excess of 92% of businesses, and 69% of jobs in the workforce]
  • Staffing is of concern to certain sectors, particularly Digital, Agrifood, Transport, and Retail.